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Swan Valley community rallies together to help people stranded in snowstorm

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SWAN VALLEY — A small community rallied together over the weekend when a large snowstorm hit, shutting down roads and leaving several travelers stranded trying to get home the day after Christmas.

U.S. Highway 26 near Swan Valley closed for most of the day on Sunday, Dec. 26. People from out of state and in-state were stuck in the storm with whatever they had in their vehicles.

“We don’t have any big hotels or anything that people can stay in, so there weren’t really a lot of options for them,” said Kat Brainard, a spokeswoman for the Swan Valley Fire District.

The district is made up of volunteer firefighters — 20 right now. It relies on grants and donations to fund the department.

“We had some people trying to get to Seattle, some people trying to get to California, a couple of families trying to go home to Vegas, and a couple of families from Pocatello,” Brainard said.

She said the roads were closed for at least 13 hours. She’s experienced three winters in Swan Valley with the roads shutting down but never anything quite this long before.

She told EastIdahoNews.com on Tuesday that in the community of fewer than 1,000 residents, people came together after she sent out a request for help. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opened its doors for a warm place to stay, eat and sleep for the night.

“Everyone just pitched in and did what they could, and all the little efforts pulled off to kind of a big thing,” she said.

Teton County Emergency Management let the Swan Valley Fire District use its trailer of cots, blankets and hygiene kits. Residents pitched in to bring meals, along with desserts and extra blankets for at least 60 people.

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Kids play and families take shelter inside church in Swan Valley. | Swan Valley Fire District Facebook

Brainard posted on Facebook, “We had someone bring a big bag of stuffed animals so every stranded child (of which there were *many*) could pick a new lovey — one girl was having some serious anxiety, and her new friend really helped her out. I asked a mom with a newborn if she had formula she could share with a stranded baby who’d run out, and she delivered some to the church.”

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Some of the stuffed animals that were brought. | Swan Valley Fire District Facebook

She said kids had their recent Christmas presents with them and played with LEGO. There were also dodgeballs at the church for the kids to play with to stay entertained.

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Kids playing at the church. | Swan Valley Fire District Facebook

Brainard said it was a massive team effort that involved not only the community stepping in, but also Bonneville County Emergency Management, the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office, the Idaho Transportation Department, Bonneville County Dispatch, and the Idaho Falls Fire Department.

She’s grateful to everyone involved.

“I love Swan Valley. I had no doubts that they would take care of these strangers, and they absolutely went above and beyond to make sure everyone was comfortable and happy,” she said. “They weren’t just sheltered and having minimum needs, they went above and beyond to extend Christmas and actually make it an enjoyable day for most people.”

RELATED | We Are East Idaho: Swan Valley

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